A 31-year-old undertrial, with a history of epilepsy, who was recently released on bail from the Arthur Road jail died while recuperating on September 24 at the JJ Hospital. The family of the deceased has alleged that he was beaten up and the authorities did not inform them about his death.
Mohammed Feroze Sheikh Gaus was arrested by the Bandra police on September 9 under IPC Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon). On September 11, he was brought to JJ Hospital for a check-up after which he was sent to the Arthur Road jail in judicial custody. On September 15, he was brought again to the hospital in a wounded state. He was unconscious and drowsy and placed in the critical care section until September 24, after which he was declared dead, said the doctors of the JJ Hospital.
Sheikh’s family members allege foul play as they were not informed of his death until the night of September 29. Sheikh lived in Dharavi with his grandmother, uncle and brother. He didn’t have parents. On the night of September 29, two police officers went around the Dharavi area, showing the photo of Sheikh, asking if anyone knew him. Later, they stumbled upon their neighbours who informed Shaikh’s family members.
When the family members went to look at the body, they were shocked because it was disfigured to quite an extent. They alleged that he had shoe marks on his face, belt marks on his back and a broken neck and a jaw and swollen legs. “It’s clearly visible that he was a victim of police brutality. At first they don’t inform us about his death and then they lied about the cause of the death as well because the jailers said he slipped,” his uncle Farukh Sheikh alleged. He further alleged that the family members were being stopped from taking a video of the post mortem.
Doctors at the JJ Hospital said that they informed the JJ Marg and NM Joshi Marg police stations on the day of death itself over the phone. The senior inspector of JJ Marg police station Shirish Gaikwad said he wasn’t informed about the death earlier and received the official letter in this regard only on the September 29.
Harshad Ahirrao, Superintendent, Arthur Road Jail, claimed that it was the hospital’s responsibility to inform the family of the deceased about his death. “By the time the deceased was admitted to hospital for the second time, he had been granted bail and was not our prisoner anymore. We have made an entry in the diary of the concerned police station that he had received bail but was in the hospital,” he claimed.
Rajvardhan Sinha, Inspector General of Police, Prisons, claimed that the deceased had been dead for at least five days before his family was informed. Inspector Manohar Dhanawade of Bandra police station said that he was not aware of the matter.
Legislator Waris Pathan of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), who got involved after he was contacted by Sheikh’s family members, said, ‘’Even the courts in the past have remarked that members of various minority communities have been victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra.”